The private Inspiration4 astronauts set to fly on SpaceX's first all-civilian spaceflight this month are launching into the limelight today (Sept. 6) with a new Netflix documentary series.
In the new Netflix docuseries "Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space," you can follow along with the four-person crew of the upcoming mission Inspiration4 as they prepare to launch to space in real time. The four-episode series co-produced with Time Studios has followed the crew throughout their journey and will show their real-time transformation from "regular" people into full-blown astronauts as they prepare to launch on a 3-day orbital journey Sept. 15.
"I've said it really from the beginning, that the stars have always aligned with Inspiration4 every step of the way," crew commander Jared Isaacman, the billionaire Shift4 tech entrepreneur who chartered a SpaceX Crew Dragon flight for the mission, which he's used to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, told Space.com in an exclusive interview. "From the timing of even having this opportunity in the first place, to the crew selection process to this unbelievable crew that I'm fortunate enough to go fly to space with, it's all awesome."
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"I think we all lost track of the fact that there was a documentary made throughout all this," Isaacman said. "But we're so thankful that they did, because we have not had an opportunity to stop and pause, even for a second, over the last five months or so to just reflect on all these important milestones. So we're happy to be doing this for us. We're so happy they're doing it for everyone."
"Because," he added, "that's what Inspiration4 is supposed to be about: inspiring people … and I think that will be explored in pretty decent detail throughout the documentary."
Sian Proctor, a geoscientist, professor and space artist who will be flying as part of the crew as Inspiration4's pilot, told Space.com that she appreciates "knowing that Netflix has captured not only my story, but all of our space story, and in a really thoughtful way that can be shared with the entire world." Proctor and Isaacman will launch alongside St. Jude physician assistant and childhood cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux and data engineer Chris Sembroski.
"It's the most complex production plan that I've ever been a part of," series director Jason Hehir ("The Last Dance") told Space.com, adding that real-time documenting different crew members training at different times in different time zones, all-the-while working towards a launch to space, was quite a tall task. "This is a more ambitious production than anything I've ever been a part of, on several levels."
But despite all of the challenges, Hehir's passion for capturing the Inspiration4 journey through training and, ultimately, to space and back, has only grown.
While there have been flights with civilians on-board before, he added, and there have been fully-civilian crews that have reached suborbital space, this will be the first-ever all-civilian mission to go into orbit around Earth.
"This is a true mission to space," Hehir said, adding that "ordinary people" will be "operating a spacecraft for three days as it orbits the Earth, higher than anyone has been since the Apollo missions … the ambition of this is inspiring."
"And the characters are everyday people, but extraordinary in their own ways," he said. "It's been inspiring, and it's been really fun. And it's been a pleasure to grow close to them. These are now friends of mine and friends of our crews. So we're going to be excited and nervous and we'll be feeling a whole lot of emotions on launch day."
And that crew of now-astronauts is certainly feeling the excitement, both about their impending journey and about sharing their stories with the world through this docuseries.
"That whole idea of being able to bring as many people as possible on this journey with us in near real time. To me, that's exciting, because it gets me back to the days of what it would have been like for my parents, you know, being on Guam during the Apollo mission and people tuning in and watching in real time," Proctor, who was born in Guam as her father worked for NASA at the Guam Remote Ground Terminal during the Apollo program, added.
"Getting that whole entire story together and being able to inspire the next generation. I really hope that what happens is that we inspire the world to come along with us on this journey," she said.
"To me, it's about opening up access to space so that more can follow and have this experience, but also bring humanity forwards to the moon, Mars and beyond," Proctor said. "And then while we're doing that, you know, while we're solving for space, we're solving for Earth. And that's really the takeaway message in the end. And we hope that that's what resonates with not only the space community, but the world at large."
Email Chelsea Gohd at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined Space.com in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.